30 July 2015

Review: THE SILENCE OF THE SEA, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

  • first published in Icelandic in 2011
  • translated into English by Victoria Cribb 2014
  • this edition published by Hodder & Stoughton 
  • ISBN 978-1-444-73446-1
  • source: my local library
  • #6 in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series
 Synopsis (publisher)

An abandoned yacht, a young family missing - chilling crime from the queen of Nordic Noir.
 
WINNER OF THE 2015 PETRONA AWARD

The most chilling novel yet from Yrsa Sigurdardottir, an international bestseller at the height of her powers.

'Mummy dead.' The child's pure treble was uncomfortably clear. It was the last thing Brynjar - and doubtless the others - wanted to hear at that moment. 'Daddy dead.' It got worse. 'Adda dead. Bygga dead.' The child sighed and clutched her grandmother's leg. 'All dead.' 

A luxury yacht arrives in Reykjavik harbour with nobody on board. What has happened to the crew, and to the family who were on board when it left Lisbon?

Thora Gudmundsdottir is hired by the young father's parents to investigate, and is soon drawn deeper into the mystery. What should she make of the rumours saying that the vessel was cursed, especially given that when she boards the yacht she thinks she sees one of the missing twins? Where is Karitas, the glamorous young wife of the yacht's former owner? And whose is the body that has washed up further along the shore?

My Take

This is an amazing novel, told on two planes.

The opening scene is of a fabulous yacht, several decks high, coming into Reykjavik harbour. On the wharf waiting for it are an old couple with a young granddaughter, a man with his leg in a cast, and the harbour master. Something is wrong. The yacht makes no attempt to slow down and it crashes into the wharf. No one appears on deck and it becomes apparent that there is nobody aboard. The incident makes the headlines of Reykjavik news.

Thora Gundmundsottir comes into the story when the elderly parents of the young father who should have been on board employ her to deal with the paperwork of proving their son must be dead, and with claiming his life insurance. Thora gets in touch with the various authorities including the police, and so one plane of the story is narrated from the standpoint of after the event, trying to work out what happened.

The second narration comes from those who are on board the yacht as the events unfold. What should have been an adventure for the young family, passengers on the yacht being sailed from Lisbon to Reykjavik, turns to horror as a body is discovered stored in a freezer and an elusive perfume convinces them that there is somebody else on board.

There is plenty of mystery for the reader to work out, and in the long run, I'm sure you will agree with the judges of the 2015 Petrona Award, given annually in memory of Maxine Clarke, that this is one not to be missed.

My rating: 5.0

I've also reviewed 4.8, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME
I certainly have a few titles to catch up with.

The series (list from EuroCrime)
Thora Gudmundsdottir, Lawyer
Last Rituals20071
My Soul to Take20092
Ashes to Dust20103
The Day is Dark20114
• Someone to Watch Over Me20135
• The Silence of the Sea20146

Look also for
I Remember You2012
• The Undesired2015

26 July 2015

Review: STRANGER CHILD, Rachel Abbott

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3303 KB
  • Print Length: 364 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0957652240
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Black Dot Publishing Ltd (February 24, 2015)
  • Publication Date: February 24, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00T6MDXA2
  • #4 in the Tom Douglas series 
Synopsis (Amazon)

One Dark Secret. One act of revenge.

When Emma Joseph met her husband David, he was a man shattered by grief. His first wife had been killed outright when her car veered off the road. Just as tragically, their six-year-old daughter mysteriously vanished from the scene of the accident.

Now, six years later, Emma believes the painful years are behind them. She and David have built a new life together and have a beautiful baby son, Ollie.

Then a stranger walks into their lives, and their world tilts on its axis.

Emma's life no longer feels secure. Does she know what really happened all those years ago? And why does she feel so frightened for herself and for her baby?

When a desperate Emma reaches out to her old friend DCI Tom Douglas for help, she puts all their lives in jeopardy. Before long, a web of deceit is revealed that shocks both Emma and Tom to the core.

They say you should never trust a stranger. Maybe they're right.

My Take

Once again  Rachel Abbott has produced another page turner. There is quite a lot of improbability in this plot, but that doesn't seem to matter: you read on because you just want to find out what happens.

The book opens with a hook in the form of a Prologue - an accident occurs where Caroline Joseph is killed and her six year old daughter Tasha, a passenger in the car, disappears.  The plot jumps six years and a body is found in the nearby woods. The police fear it may be Tasha, but the problem is that this girl is older, the age Tasha would be now, and she has only recently died.

Again this is a case where DCI Tom Douglas really has a conflict of interest because he knows one of the victims, but on the other hand it can be argued that this is an advantage, because it gives him a degree of inside knowledge. The novel also explores Tom's professional relationship with his second in command, and with the woman who has become his lover.

If you haven't caught up with this series, then it is time to make a start.

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed
4.8, ONLY THE INNOCENT
4.9, THE BACK ROAD
4.6, SLEEP TIGHT

Review: BELFAST NOIR by Adrian McKinty (editor), Stuart Neville (editor) - audio book

Synopsis (publisher)

Reflecting a city still divided, Belfast Noir serves as a record of a city transitioning to normalcy, or perhaps as a warning that underneath the fragile peace darker forces still lurk. 

Featuring brand-new stories by: Glenn Patterson, Eoin McNamee, Garbhan Downey, Lee Child, Alex Barclay, Brian McGilloway, Ian McDonald, Arlene Hunt, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Claire McGowan, Steve Cavanagh, Lucy Caldwell, Sam Millar, and Gerard Brennan. 

From the introduction by Adrian McKinty & Stuart Neville: "Few European cities have had as disturbed and violent a history as Belfast over the last half-century. For much of that time the Troubles (1968–1998) dominated life in Ireland's second-biggest population centre, and during the darkest days of the conflict - in the 1970s and 1980s - riots, bombings, and indiscriminate shootings were tragically commonplace. The British army patrolled the streets in armoured vehicles and civilians were searched for guns and explosives before they were allowed entry into the shopping district of the city centre... Belfast is still a city divided... You can see Belfast's bloodstains up close and personal. This is the city that gave the world its worst ever maritime disaster, and turned it into a tourist attraction; similarly, we are perversely proud of our thousands of murders, our wounds constantly on display. You want noir? How about a painting the size of a house, a portrait of a man known to have murdered at least a dozen human beings in cold blood? Or a similar house-sized gable painting of a zombie marching across a post-apocalyptic wasteland with an AK-47 over the legend UVF: Prepared for Peace - Ready for War. As Lee Child has said, Belfast is still 'the most noir place on earth.'"

Part I: City of Ghosts
“The Undertaking” by Brian McGilloway (Roselawn)
“Poison” by Lucy Caldwell (Dundonald)
“Wet with Rain” by Lee Child (Great Victoria Street)
“Taking It Serious” by Ruth Dudley Edwards (Falls Road)
Part II: City of Walls
“Ligature” by Gerard Brennan (Hydebank)
“Belfast Punk REP” by Glenn Patterson (Ann Street)
“The Reservoir” by Ian McDonald (Holywood)
Part III: City of Commerce
“The Grey” by Steve Cavanagh (Laganside, Queens Island)
“Rosie Grant’s Finger” by Claire McGowan (Titanic Quarter)
“Out of Time” by Sam Millar (Hill Street)
“Die Like a Rat” by Garbhan Downey (Malone Road)
Part IV: Brave New City
“Corpse Flowers” by Eoin McNamee (Ormeau Embankment)
“Pure Game” by Arlene Hunt (Sydenham)
“The Reveller” by Alex Barclay (Shore Road)
 
My Take

Not a set of stories for the faint-hearted, most of these are truly noir.
As with most short story collections, there are some that are very good, clever, or amusing, but there are others that tempt you to skip to the next.
They do make the reader appreciate that Irish noir fiction is alive, well, and strong.
Surprisingly, apart from the introduction, there is not a contribution from either of the editors.

Read a feature on Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, and Lee Child at the Wall Street Journal.
Listen to an interview with editors Stuart Neville and Adrian McKinty at RTÉ Arts Radio.

My rating: 4.2

I've read and reviewed
McKinty, Adrian:
FIFTY GRAND
4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND
4.8, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET
4.6, FALLING GLASS
4.9, IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE

Neville, Stuart:
THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST
4.8, THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND

21 July 2015

Review: THREE BLIND MICE and other stories, Agatha Christie

  • This edition published by Center Point Large Print in 2013. The collection was first published in 1950.
  • ISBN 978-1-61173-777-6
  • 294 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis

1950 Three Blind Mice and Other Stories (nine short stories - US only)

The collection contains
  • Three Blind Mice
  • Strange Jest
  • Tape Measure Murder
  • The Case of the Perfect Maid
  • The Case of the Caretaker
  • The Third Floor Flat
  • The Adventure of Johnnie Waverley
  • Four and Twenty Blackbirds
  • The Love Detectives 
Three Blind Mice is a novella and is the only one in the list that I haven't been able to read in another collection. Reading it will complete my challenge to read all the Agatha Christie novels and short stories.

Blurb from back cover
The guests and residents of the newly opened guest house, Monkswell Manor, find themselves trapped by a blinding snowstorm and threatened by a psychotic killer. With a finite cast of characters in this "locked room" mystery it is not long before suspicions are voiced, and under growing pressure newlyweds Molly and Giles Davis start to suspect each other of murder.

My Take

This story is the basis for the West End play The Mouse Trap which had its first performance in 1952.
From Wikipedia
The story Three Blind Mice was written in 1947, and published in the US in 1950.

The story is really a novella and the action slips past very quickly. Once the guest house becomes cut off by a snow storm, the tension builds and a murder takes place. There is a dramatic quality to the events, or is it just that I know that it is the basis of The Mouse Trap? One can imagine these events being played out on a stage.

Following the tradition with The Mouse Trap there will be no revealing of how the plot works out here. For the record, I did work out who the murderer was.
I am glad I read it.

My rating: 4.2

I read this for my participation in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, and at last, after over 6 years, I've finished! I have read 66 novels and 154 short stories (including this novella) in 23 collections.

Review: A TRIFLE DEAD, Livia Day

  • format: Amazon (Kindle)
  • File Size: 602 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Deadlines (November 22, 2013)
  • Publication Date: November 22, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

Tabitha Darling has always had a dab hand for pastry and a knack for getting into trouble. Which was fine when she was a tearaway teen, but not so useful now she’s trying to run a hipster urban cafe, invent the perfect trendy dessert, and stop feeding the many (oh so unfashionable) policemen in her life.

When a dead muso is found in the flat upstairs, Tabitha does her best (honestly) not to interfere with the investigation, despite the cute Scottish blogger who keeps angling for her help. Her superpower is gossip, not solving murder mysteries, and those are totally not the same thing, right?

But as that strange death turns into a string of random crimes across the city of Hobart, Tabitha can’t shake the unsettling feeling that maybe, for once, it really is ALL ABOUT HER.

And maybe she’s figured out the deadly truth a trifle late…

A TRIFLE DEAD is a culinary crime novel – delicious food, good coffee, cute frocks and okay, the occasional gruesome murder.

My Take

For me, one of the attractions of this novel was a new-to-me female Aussie author, followed closely by the setting in Hobart, Tasmania.

The overall feeling with this novel is chicklit/mystery which is probably not totally my cup of tea. However there is a murder to be solved, and some interesting characters to get to know. There are plenty of Amazon reviewers, mostly younger than me I suspect, who have loved it. There is a strong sense of setting and the portrayal of Hobart as a place for the young.

There are recipes at the end of the book for those who would like to try some of Tabitha Darling's food for themselves.

Well done.

My rating: 4.0

About the author:
Livia Day fell in love with crime fiction at an early age. Her first heroes were Miss Jane Marple and Mrs Emma Peel, and not a lot has changed since then!
She has lived in Hobart, Tasmania for most of her life, and now spends far too much time planning which picturesque tourist spot will get the next fictional corpse. You can find her online at tabithadarlingsbedroomfloor.tumblr.com
- See more here, and read the first chapter online.

17 July 2015

Review: POIROT'S EARLY CASES, Agatha Christie

  • this edition published by Fontana Books 1979
  • first published by William Collins in 1974
  • 222 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis

This is a collection of short stories, most of which were also published in other collections, and some of which I had already read.
My Take

So that left me 7 stories to read. They all feature Hercule Poirot and are about 13 pages each in length.
Surprisingly they are all from relatively early in Christie's career.
  • The Third-Floor Flat, first published 1929
    Patricia Garnett returns with her friends at night to find that she has lost her key to her flat. Her male friends decide to get into her flat, which is on the third floor, by accessing the service lift from the basement. They break into the wrong flat and discover a dead woman. Hercule Poirot is staying in the building and comes to the rescue.
  • The Adventure of Johnnie Waverley, first published 1923
    Hercule Poirot solves the problem of the abduction of a three year old.
  • The Chocolate Box, first published 1925
    Drinking a cup of chocolate by a warm fire reminds Hercule Poirot of a case that he regards as his greatest failure. It is set in Belgium when he is still in the Belgian police force and involves a sudden death.
  • The Lost Mine, first published 1925
    Hastings is marvelling at his dwindling bank balance and suggests that Poirot buy some shares. Poirot tells him the story of how he was given 14,000 shares in Burma Mines for his role in solving a murder mystery.
  • The Veiled Lady, first published 1925
    This story is narrated by Hastings who has noticed that Poirot is becoming increasingly restless. The newspapers are full of reports of a daring jewellery robbery in Bond Street. They are discussing this when a young lady arrives at Porot's flat. She is heavily veiled. She tells Poirot she is being blackmailed by someone and Poirot agrees to meet the blackmailer. But Poirot is cleverer than his visitor imagines.
  • Problem at Sea, first published 1936
    Poirot is on a cruise to Alexandria. He has been keeping to his cabin with seasickness but now emerges to observe his fellow passengers. His attention is caught by Colonel and Mrs Clapperton. The latter seems to be a very unpleasant person who treats her husband with contempt. The day they arrive in Alexandria Mrs Clapperton takes to her bed and Colonel Clapperton goes on shore with a couple of young women. When he returns Mrs Clapperton is dead, murdered.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow, first published 1932
    Poirot receives a letter from an elderly woman who wishes to consult him, but before he can visit her, she dies of strychnine poisoning, and her Russian companion, the major beneficiary of her will, has been accused of murder. This story show Poirot using Miss Lemon in an investigative capacity, slthough he mourns the fact that she does not have Captain Hastings' imagination.
I read these as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. Check my short story list

These stories are pretty quick reads, but each shows Christie's acute observation of character, and her great interest in what causes people to commit crimes. 

My rating: 4.0

14 July 2015

Review: DOUBLE SIN and Other Stories, Agatha Christie

  • this edition a Center Point Large Print edition published in 2013
  • first published 1961
  • ISBN 978-1-61173-775-2
  • 250 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis

A collection of eight short stories, first published 1961.
My Take

In the long run I had actually already read five of these short stories in other collections, and I also realised that I had actually seen television versions of the other three.

Double Sin is the story of a young woman and her aunt who sell antiques and who run an insurance scam, looking for gullible travellers who will back up their claim that their wares have been stolen. In this case though they pick on Poirot and Hastings.

Wasps' Nest. Hercule Poirot becomes convinced that someone of his acquaintance is about to commit murder and he sets out to prevent it.

The Double Clue is the first of the stories that features the Countess Vera Rossakoff, a Russian lady who becomes involved in the theft some rubies and an emerald necklace. She makes the mistake of leaving two clues.

My rating : 4.0

I read these as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. Check my short story list.

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